Aside from the six demands from the NTUCB, there are other unions that are experiencing some challenges. Recently, the Christian Workers Union was protesting at the Port of Belize as over one hundred stevedores will be impacted due to planned changes by Santander and the BSI/ASR in the uploading of sugar. The report is that the sugar companies are collaborating to move their business from Port of Belize to the Big Creek Port which would prove more financially beneficial for the companies. While some do sympathize with the stevedores there are those who believe that these changes are unavoidable. According to Mora, it has more to do with how it is handled.
Marvin Mora, President, National Trade Union Congress of Belize: “The NTUCB voted unanimously in favor of supporting the CWU come what may. So the NTUCB has already mobilized itself to try and give the sister union CWU all the help that they need for the stevedores situation developing at the port.”
Reporter: Now let me be the devil’s advocate here with this stevedores situation. What’s happening here in Belize is nothing new in terms of what’s happening around the world. Technology is taking over, people are looking at how to operate businesses more efficiently and be a little bit more financially sound. So how would you respond to the person who is saying “You know what well that’s just the way the world works and yes we understand that there is a hundred and fifty stevedores that will be affected but you cannot stop progress because of this, it has to happen, it’s inevitable they just have to find another trade or move on to something else.?
Marvin Mora, President, National Trade Union Congress of Belize: “Alright there’s a couple things there, the first is managerial responsibility. If it is that you do care about your workers, if you have a business and you really care about your workers the first thing that you should do is want to secure something for your worker so that in case that the business goes belly up or that you don’t need the position, it becomes redundant for that specific worker then that worker can go about his merry business and have enough for that worker to be able to stand back on their two feet. The other is the following, that’s not the only issue there, the issue is they have not signed on to a CBA since King Hatchet was a hammer and that is for us at the NTUCB is the biggest concern because without having a CBA in place there is no way that the guys whose position will be made redundant will be able to walk away with something that is decent so that is the problem and that’s what we are supporting them on in the first instance and the second instance is that nothing was done, really nothing was moved to ensure that there was a smooth transition when redundancies hit the company of PBL.”
Reporter: But was the union, was the CWU behind the port in terms of getting something in place?
Marvin Mora, President, National Trade Union Congress of Belize: “Yes, definitely. In fact I can tell you that for many years the CWU has tried even before this president, for the other two I can speak they have been trying with all that they have to be able to put down a collective bargaining agreement that will spell out pensions, redundancies and all the other things that we are talking about and that was never never accomplished and the reason for that is because you have a hard ball game being played by management. So management needs to make themselves a little bit more accessible and come with meaningful proposals to the negotiating table or else the process won’t move and then eventually those people will strike and who will get affected ? All of us.”
On Friday, while a Memorandum of Understanding was signed, NTUCB’s President, Marvin Mora explained that it brings no real benefits to the stevedores. Mora says this was one of the issues discussed at Saturday’s NTUCB meeting.
Marvin Mora, President, National Trade Union Congress of Belize: “The MOU basically is just to put negotiations back on the table. It does not give the CWU any other benefit or any other materialistic thing to hold on to, there is absolutely no substance there except the fact that they have agreed that they would come back to the negotiation table but the clock is ticking because the guys have instituted their 21 day notice with intention to strike as per the labor laws specifically the chapter that deals with the Essential Services Act itself. So be it as it may be we are supporting our sister union and not only that one but if the teachers have an issue and they bring it to the table of course once we realize that their plight is something that is in the direction of justice obviously we would have to support.”
Another union that is still looking at industrial action is the Belize National Teachers Union (BNTU). A report to our newsroom over the weekend is that there is a protest in the planning stages.
Marvin Mora, President, National Trade Union Congress of Belize: “One thing that I would like to mention is the autonomy of our unions. Union members within the National Trade Union Congress of Belize have a level of autonomy that they basically can start any process without the involvement of the NTUCB but along the way we get brief reports and if they need support they would let us know. So whenever they come to the NTUCB for support they obviously will get it.”
We will keep you posted on the unions and their plights as they develop.